I have often had a whine about how Aussies are not taught our own history. We are taught instead, at the very best, anecdotal stories. Mostly we are taught about European history, English royalty and the histories of European explorers who came to lay their own uncertain claim to fame in a new world. There is nothing about Asian explorers and traders who had a huge traditional trade business operating on our northern shores for centuries, or even information on the claims the Dutch held in continental Australia. This claim being one much earlier than when Lieutenant Cook made his equally ditzie claim for English sovereignty over the vast swathe of the Australian coastline while standing on a remote island in the Torres Strait.
Very little mention is made about our convict history in the education of our kids even though it almost exclusively dominated the first 30 years of the colony. We are taught about how the English governors and law makers coped in ruling the penal settlement, not how the people coped or even lived. Our convict history dominated society for over 60 years and yet very little is mentioned of this and how the people built a nation. We hear little of the settlers, the adventurers, loggers and mariners let alone the often inhumane rules and practices that governed the convict (and freed) population.
Very little is also mentioned about the suffering of Australia’s First Nation, for the decimation of the Eora people around Botany Bay and the new penal settlement. We are not told about the atrocities perpetrated against the tribal aboriginal people by the land hungry squatters as well as by their own, in the form of the Native Police. In fact authorities today do not like even discussing the secretive activities of the much feared ‘Native Police’ force even though they operated across Australia for some 70yrs in our colonial history.
In their day it was illegal to even report on their activities, they were kept well away from public scrutiny by acts of Law. Yet this Police force about which we know little were feared by their own people, the Aboriginal tribal clans who understood the nature and abilities of these largely dispossessed warriors now working for the Whitefella’s.
I have read and appreciated the wisdom in a recently published book, ‘Why Warriors Lie Down and Die’. This is a magnificent piece of research and experience now offered to the general public for digestion. Some say it is a difficult read … and if you are unfamiliar with the murder and mayhem that accompanied the effects colonization for the tribal people then I can understand this. This book however does not preach about this, but merely attempts to explain and bring the reader to an understanding. In this it is magnificent!
The book however is a teaching and learning experience. It examines the problems experienced by the descendants of an ancient tribal culture who still struggle with the developing demands of the society they now find themselves a part of. In many ways they are still fringe-dwellers when they should be a powerful cultural base for their people. Their position is largely because they have not been acknowledged as a people, probably because they see themselves as clans or tribes albeit interconnected but separate so there is no one governing body to represent all of the Nations First People. Nor have they been valued for the vast pool of experience and knowledge they have of our country. A country we share.
Some would say that we have Aboriginal Affairs and the like, but is this truly representative of the First Nations people … or are they more representative of the struggle the First Nations people have in attempting to cope with a westernized society? There is a political campaign to Recognise our First Australians and it is something, as Aussies, we should all get behind.
Why do we not have an Aboriginal Embassy? Or even a Dept that is staffed by embassadors of the people, elected by the First Nations people from their communities? Every region that has land right status should be represented in such a Embassy. It has been nearly 50 years since Australians acknowledged there were even traditional peoples within our national and cultural makeup. Where is their representation now? Some people in our Governments echelon and/or Parliamentary reps truly need to get off their arses and do some real foundation remodelling for all the people of our nation. It is a crime and our truly greatest shame that our First Naitons people do not even have their own embassy to represent their interests.
Every educator should read the book by Richard Trudgen, ‘When Warriors Lie Down and Die’
It in itself is an education and offers some real analasis and solutions to the problems the First Nations people are experiencing. I have long felt that teachers should be taught ‘How to Teach Learning Skills’ as apposed to exclusively ‘What to Learn and how you will learn it.’
The population of Indigenous Australians at the time of permanent European settlement has been estimated at between 318,000 and 1,000,000 with the distribution being similar to that of the current Australian population, the majority living in the south-east and centred along the Murray River. That population of Australians who identify themselves as Aboriginal now sits at well over 500,000 while around 20% of the Australian continent is now under Native Title claim.
Many of those who identify as indigenous have narrow links to their heritage, but then again those who can claim Australian nationality beyond the 6th generation are I understand considered native to their land under international law. This would include people without any first nation heritage. Perhaps the time for racist delineation has passed and we should instead be looking at the welfare of Aussies as a collective. We should attempt to help all our remote communities and help those who need ‘specialised assistance’ to receive this in education, health and resource support suited to their needs.
The problems in OUR society, particularly in remote regions are endemic and should be addressed not because they are identifiable along racial boundaries but because they are IDENTIFIABLE. We need to do something about Aussies who are struggling with issues of education, health and community and we need to do this with consideration to their cultural background and experience, not their race.
If you want to understand what is happening to our First Nations people in OUR society then I couldn’t recommend more highly that you read this publication. All our educators and teachers should read this … and we should take a serious look at not only What we teach our kids, but How.
Why Warriors Lie Down and Die by Richard Trudgen
“Many books have been written about the Yolŋu people of Arnhem Land (NT Australia). This one is very different. It speaks about the real situation that we face every day, a reality that is hard for people of another culture to imagine.”
Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra
Why Warriors Lie Down and Die is essential reading for anyone interested in indigenous peoples. It provides hope and new direction for those searching for the answers as to why “the problems” seems to persist in Aboriginal communities. It also offers insights for those who want a greater understanding of the issues involved in achieving true reconciliation. And provides a way forward for anyone working with Indigenous people in Australian. International groups are showing a growing interest in the insights the book provides into the challenges that occur across the cultural divide for all colonized people groups.
Hi Jan, I have just started reading your blog, good work!
I am so pleased to find someone else who appreciates the work of Richard Trudgen as I do, and to help champion the rights of Australia’s first peoples.
I lived in the NT for several years myself working out of Darwin with many Aboriginal people, a time I truly value, would actually love to head back there again, maybe next year or 2015!
Once again, love your work that I have read thus far!
Hi Annie, thanks for you comments. Reading Richard Trudgen’s work was a delight and it truly brings to the reader an appreciation of our First Nations people and the problems they have. I wanted to do this article as a small tribute in the hope of having is work more known to the broader community and his experience more widely appreciated, bringing a greater understanding of what it is to be Australian for our indigenous family. I am looking forward to returning to NT and the Kimberleys again next year in my own research. It is a world that I have a need to return to having worked with urban kids, including those of Aboriginal heritage and the problems they too experience. Education is the key.. but it has to be the right type and presented in a way that is better understood.I think Richard has the right approach certainly.
Travel well Annie.